Six, Drugs, and Rock & Roll
Why Tunnel 18?
So I know you’ve been saying to yourself for at least a week now, “Ok, Chris, you’ve explained the whole band family tree and all that, so we get it. But what the hell is with the name? Seems random. What gives?”
Up until about 1989, we’d played under a few different names: Mirada (after Neils’ bass), Prototype, etc… None of us were very happy with the names, but we couldn’t come up with anything else that had not already been taken.
One summer day, we were practicing at Don’s house and took a break. There was a movie on the TV – some weird sci-fi thing (we figured out after the fact it was George Lucas’ THX 1138). At one point the main characters are running from a futuristic police force and one of the radio calls announces, “They’ve gone into Tunnel 18!”
Don immediately yelled out, “THAT’S IT!”
The rest of us took a little convincing, but by the end of the discussion the new name was a fait accompli, and there was never another conversation about changing it.
#6 – The Beatles [the White Album] (The Beatles, 1968)
It’s probably worth noting in this list that to call an album the “most influential” does not necessarily mean it is the best album by that band, or even the best example of their work. In fact, it may not even be my favorite of the band’s work. Still, these are the albums that inspired me to play or to write, and therefore I commend them to you as a really great set of music to put into a playlist and let wash over you on a long drive or plane flight (as I am doing right now – Boston to Los Angeles on a Wednesday afternoon).
The Beatles (known more commonly as The White Album) showcased a band in crisis and on its way to separate careers. The two previous albums, Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, had pushed musical boundaries and had established a real Beatles version of psychedelia. And now, in 1968, the band was left saying “Well, what next?” In addition to this, the rifts that would eventually break the band apart were starting to show. The members were musically going in different directions, and very often did not even spend time in the studio together. Since the band had not played live since 1966, this meant that they hardly spent time together at all.
The White Album was the first Beatles album that I went out to buy with my own money, largely because of the album’s reputation as highly experimental, but with songs that (I thought) I recognized. Imagine my surprise when I could not find the version of “Revolution” that I knew*, but was instead treated to two songs with similar titles that were… well, quite different.
The album is overwhelming for its length (30 songs) and its diversity of styles, of content, and – frankly – quality. Quite a lot of the album is John and Paul arsing about in the studio (see “Wild Honey Pie,” “Revolution 9,” etc).
At the same time, this is the album that included George Harrison’s exquisite “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Savoy Truffle” (which has the best sax tone, ever!), John Lennon’s “Dear Prudence” and “Revolution 1” (a slower version of the famous song), and of course McCartney’s “Blackbird.”
If nothing else, the album is a masterclass in songwriting and at the same time a cautionary tale about self-indulgence. Go back and take a listen.
*It was standard UK practice at the time to view singles and albums as entirely different things. In other words, singles generally stood on their own and were not included in albums. As a result, songs like “Revolution”and “Paperback Writer” were initially released only as singles and not as part of any other compilation.